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Posted on: Saturday, 03 July 2010 by Rajiv Popat

You could be a young and budding programmer fresh out of college or a veteran who has had a very long career. One fine morning as the birds flutter outside the office window and you stare at them, you realize a strange thing about the culture of your organization.

You realize that your organization is a safe, non-political environment where no-one is out there to screw you in particular.

You are safe. You are protected. You don't need to fight it.

And then you realize that all you need to get your job done are the few basic programming techniques you slogged hard to learn during your college days. You get a few pats on the back on a job well done, life moves on and you move on to the next assignment. Once again, the skills you picked in engineering school come handy. A project well done and on time. No one is complaining.

What you don't hear however, is that no one is clapping like they did last time either.

This is the start of the loop.

You are using the same skill-sets to product the same output for the same kinds of project month after month.

You are boring to the rest of us.

To you however, office seems like home. It's safe. It's warm. It's cozy. And look, you have made a few friends too!

For you, your friends are people you can take to conference rooms with you and chit chat about process and 'resources' and shit like that. You know, things that seem like work, but are not really work.

For you, friends are people who you are comfortable with. For you friends are people who you do not challenge you. For you, friends are people who you do not challenge either.

Put simply, your friends are in the same shitty loop of safety as you are.

Neither of you have ever brought yourself close to getting fired. Neither of you guys have tested your limits. You have looped your skill-sets, done just enough to get your work 'approved' and then have serious kick-ass chit-chat in meeting rooms.

Then one strange day it happens. You get an email from your customer telling you that your module has done no major feature releases for the last five months. You are not really working. You are just talking about work and whining your time away. Your customer is calling out on your bull-shit. Your customer just told you that the work you are doing lately is fu@#ked up.

Now you are just going to have to deal with it.

It feels like being punched on the stomach doesn't it? Your bit fat hundred pound ego shattered to the ground. The guilt of f@#cking around in meeting rooms for hours when you should have been doing some real work seems like a heavy burden on your back, doesn't it? What do you do? What do you do? They clapped at your work three years ago. They sent you special appreciation emails back then.

F@#CK!

It CANNOT be your fault.

Your first gut-based-knee-jerk reaction? Fire up the mail client. Hit the reply to all button and poop all over with a truck load of shitty jargon that you were busy learning in the last three years.

Resource Planning needs to be done properly... Blah.... Blah... Requirements need to be elaborated and frozen... Blah... Blah... The Quality Approval process needs to provide suggestions on what needs to be improved which they are not doing... Blah... Blah... Yeah.

You review that, pat yourself on the back and whisper to yourself, "Yeah. That aught to set things in perspective."

Thinking of hitting the send button?

Here is my humble advice: Don't.

There are multiple reasons why you need to stop. Now.

First of all, you have just been criticized. You need to give that some soak time.

Secondly, by hitting that send button you are taking your first step at becoming a fully qualified whiner. What ever amazing talents that were bestowed upon you by your engineering college, the ones you have been flaunting for years, even those might slowly start fading away if you walk down that path.

Thirdly, people are going to see your shit and laugh at you and here is the worst part, they are going to do that behind your back, because now they have seen how you defend negative feedback with aggression and lame excuses.

If you ask me, I'd start by telling you to just shut the F@#CK up and apologize. Then when you have done that, realize that words mean nothing. So when the next sprint begins get your ass out of that meeting room, logout of your yahoo messenger and focus on shipping. Then, go ahead and ship. Remember, goals win matches, fouls don't.

Are you still reading this?

Well, it probably means that you have made it through the entire blog post. The irony with a post like this one however, is that if you are reading this, it probably does not apply to you. The mere fact that you subscribe to a blog that talks about self improvement and reflection probably means that you are open to the idea of criticism. I agree, you are probably not the 'you' I talked about during the entire post.

But then, humor me on this one. What if (and I am just saying), for whatever reasons, what if you got distracted and could not produce anything in the last couple of weeks. What if your manager calls out on your shit and tells you that you have been producing horse shit in the last three weeks.

How would you react to that?

Will you try pampering your ego of being the alpha-geek who knows it all? Are you going to defend your guilt of that distraction by pooping all over in the email which you send out as a response?

Or are you going to be man enough to come out and say it, 'Yeah, I know. Sorry about that. Give me some time. I'll fix it'.

Once you have done that, are you man enough to actually go out there and fix it.

If you aren't, you are a whiner in the making.

If you are, we would love to work with you irrespective of the fact that you do go through a few random distractions in your life. We all do.

Our biggest problems are not your distractions. It is also not how you deal with them. It is what you do when we call out your shit.

Seriously. Stop feeding your ego and your guilt.

Now.

I dare you.